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Am I being too judgy?
July 8, 2012 7:07 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with my reaction to a friend confessing she has cheated on her fiancée?

I'm organising a hens party for a friend who has been engaged for some years.
Friend has given off signals that she has cold feet.
A few weeks ago at a club, friend got drunk and flirty with a guy. She was about to go home with him but we (mutual girl friends and I) stopped her. She then admitted that she has been unfaithful to her fiancée.
Mutual friends have stepped in to help her sort out the issues leading to the infidelity.
I am uncomfortable with the idea of organising and participating in a ritual designed to celebrate an event the bride-to-be is not so keen on.
However I feel I should stick by her as a friend, even though she did something stupid and will be doing something stupid (going ahead with the wedding when all issues have not been resolved).

I feel as if I'm being overly judgmental. Am I? How do I resolve this internally/externally?
posted by travellingincognito to Human Relations (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tell her it's ok to back out of the wedding. In fact it's probably things like this party, all the 'ball-rolling' stuff that probably makes her feel like she's 'locked in'. Tell her to at least postpone the wedding and that you aren't going to throw the party for the reasons you listed above.

She may get really mad though. If everyone else wants to do it, let them but I wouldn't participate. I'm judgy like that though. I'm not down with cheating.
posted by bquarters at 7:13 AM on July 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'm judgey also. I would cancel the party.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:22 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're not being overly judgmental. It's not just that she's cheated on him, past tense. She was also trying to cheat on him-- in front of friends who could easily report this activity to her fiance. This is an unresolved and likely-to-be repeated event. She might need more help than just the mutual friends. Does her fiance know? Would this be a relationship killer?

You're under no obligation to organize or even attend the hens party, just as she's under no obligation to go through with a wedding she doesn't (necessarily) want to.
posted by RainyJay at 7:26 AM on July 8, 2012


I've been in a somewhat similar position, but the infidelity was no longer a secret, the couple had had some time to process it, and both parties were firm that they wanted to continue with the marriage – so I just offered my support, kept my mouth shut, and trusted my friend to do what his heart told him was right.

Had it been more like what you describe – where the infidelity is still a secret from the groom and one party is unsure whether she really, really wants the marriage it would have been different. I think it's kind of crappy when people get swept along into marriages they don't want simply because everyone around them is so positive about it and creates a lot of pressure (intentionally or not) to follow it through and get married. It's OK to postpone a wedding or back out of it entirely if one isn't totally 100% sure that it's the right thing to do – getting married is a huge life change and some nervousness is to be expected but what you describe sounds like more than just a little nervousness.

I think you need to approach your friend privately and tell her that if she doesn't really want to get married now then you'll support her in that, and if she does really want to get married then you'll support her in that too but only if she discloses her actions to her fiance. Tell her that you think getting married while holding this kind of secret (especially when so many other people already know the secret!) turns the whole thing into a time bomb and that if she's not ready to tell this guy then she needs to hold off on the marriage because if he finds out after they are married (and with her friends knowing, he will eventually find out) then the whole thing will just be a lot shittier and a lot harder to deal with.
posted by Scientist at 7:27 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your friend is probably confused and scared. The proper reaction would be to postpone the wedding until she's completely ready, but humans are weird.

Take her out for dinner and a heart to heart. "I love you and I want to support you, but given that you have unresolved issues I don't feel right giving this party knowing what I know. At best you're having a mild freak out, at worst you know you're about to make a huge mistake. If you don't want to marry this guy, I'll help you do whatever needs to be done to get out of it. I love and support you, what can indo to help you?

Hopefully this opens a dialog and gives your friend an opportunity to discuss her issues.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:27 AM on July 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Sticking by her as a friend is not the same thing as hosting this party for her.

I'd cancel the party and advise her to postpone or cancel the wedding.
posted by SMPA at 7:28 AM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Subtly change it from a hens' to a plain ol' girls' night out. An outright cancel, at least in my circle, would stir up a lot of gossip/speculation among people close to the wedding, including the groom-to-be -- and it just doesn't seem like it is your place to be the bell-ringer in this situation.
posted by apparently at 7:52 AM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cancel the hen party. Don't spend a dime more on the wedding or its related events until she decides what she wants to do (tell her fiancee or break off the wedding or both). Tell her you will support her regardless of her decision, but ensure that she understands that some decision has to be made.
posted by superfille at 8:17 AM on July 8, 2012


I've been in a position to out someone for cheating, and did, because I was the only one who knew and his (ex)girlfriend deserved to know. Cheating is a big deal, and it can destroy a relationship. I still feel guilty for the pain I caused them both, despite the fact I am absolutely certain that in that circumstance it was the right thing to do.

I recommend that you sit down, talk to her, and plead with her to tell her fiancee -- pointing out that so many people know, people talk, it is almost bound to slip out at some point, and if that's the case it's better for him to know now than later. She'll be living with the constant fear of him finding out if she doesn't come clean with her infidelities and her uncertainties.

That said, you shouldn't cancel the party unless you talk to her first. It's almost a dead giveaway that something big is going on, and this will most likely out her to her fiancee. It's just the more passive-aggressive way to do it.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:22 AM on July 8, 2012


Humanity is more important than friendship. You would be doing a disservice to the guy by backing this woman who doesn't have the guts to own her own decisions and to tell the guy that she is not interested. Instead she will walk down the aisle with him, lie on her vows which she has no intention of keeping and you will be party to all of this. Seriously, is this what you want?

Cancel the party, tell her what you think and refuse to engage and support her in this wrong decision.
posted by pakora1 at 8:23 AM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't have the party. It's a super super bad idea to get married to someone when you have cold feet and are actively trying to cheat multiple times - with witnesses even. That's a disaster in the making and not something to celebrate.
posted by Melsky at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am so surprised by all these answers. Yes, IMO your instinct that you're being too judgmental is correct.

You don't say much about your relationship, but for the purposes of this answer I'm going to assume you normally like and respect your friend. If not, then yeah, you should probably just find a way to cancel the party as gracefully as you can.

There are two issues here:

1) Should your friend get married? Here the decision is hers, and you play a supporting role. You should talk with her seriously about this. It's not unusual for people to feel like they need 'permission' before they can cancel a wedding, and you can help give her that permission. You could also offer to do some of the scutwork of cancelling, if there is scutwork. (I am just guessing, but it feels to me that in weighing pros and cons of cancelling, a pretty big con would be all the dreadful logistics of dealing with dozens/hundreds of disappointed family members, and vendors.)

But ultimately, it's her decision. Even if you think it's a stupid one, it's your job as her friend to support her. It is not your job to intervene in, or even have strong opinions about, her relationship.

2) Should you host the party? Of course you are under no obligation to. But you're her friend, and the purpose of the party is to celebrate her and her female friendships. If you can't host it without warmth and love then obviously don't. But if you love her, try to be compassionate. Engaged people who get drunk and have sex with random people in bars are expressing pain/turmoil. Thinking of them as bad people doesn't help.

Good luck.
posted by Susan PG at 8:33 AM on July 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


She's an adult. If she doesn't want to get married, she can tell you. You can also ask her if she still wants you to host the party. It's not your job or your mutual friends' jobs to police her relationship.
posted by rdr at 8:36 AM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, the advice here seems a little harsh. Why not talk to your friend? Tell her that you're concerned about her behaviour and you don't want her to feel like she's obligated to commit to marriage just because she's been engaged for so long. As a friend (I'm assuming a close friend since you're hosting the party), you're the one who should be helping her think through this decision, and if you're concerned you should be starting these conversations. Not refusing to host some party because you think she's being inappropriate - that is, yes, super judgy. And doesn't really scream "good friend" to me.
posted by drycleanonly at 8:40 AM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd also like to add: refusing to host the party is not only super judgy, but is also inviting very unhelpful drama and kinda making this all about you.
posted by drycleanonly at 8:49 AM on July 8, 2012 [18 favorites]


I feel as if I'm being overly judgmental. Am I? How do I resolve this internally/externally?

No.

By finding better friends.
posted by rr at 9:27 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am uncomfortable with the idea of organising and participating in a ritual designed to celebrate an event the bride-to-be is not so keen on.

My discomfort in your situation would be multiplied by the fact that you are participating in a ritual that tells everyone (bride and groom included) that everything is proceeding as agreed and everybody is happy when that is not the case.

Maybe it's not incumbent upon you to reveal the infidelity, but do you want to put your stamp of approval on an event that risks compounding the lie? If canceling the party has the side effect of revealing the infidelity, so be it: that risk was assumed long ago.

However I feel I should stick by her as a friend

I think part of being a good friend is not enabling people to deceive themselves or others in situations where somebody might be hurt - to say nothing of your own feelings of friendship, if any, toward the groom.

I've never been an adherent of the "bros before hoes" philosophy, though, so weigh that accordingly.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:43 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


She's doing something that is ongoing and can be deeply hurtful to her partner. Yeah, you're her friend and with that comes some level of supporting her... but I think there's a line somewhere. And I think that line is hurting other people, so yeah, I would be thinking about not throwing this party for her.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:48 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're not being judgy. What she did—and continues to try to do—is shitty. Don't think for half a second she won't try it again, even after they get married. I'd never be able to hang out with the couple knowing what I know. It would affect how I regarded my friend. And if I was the fiancé and everyone knew but not one person bothered to tell me because it "wasn't their business", I'd be furious.

Talk to your friend. Tell her she can tell her fiancé or you will.
posted by violetk at 9:52 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think your instincts are right, but I think canceling the party feels wrong because unless you come up with a plausible lie to explain that dramatic move on your part, it's forcing your friend's hand. If you cancel the party, everyone, especially her fiancé, will want to know why. I mean, she certainly owes her husband-to-be the truth, but I hardly think that making her tell him this way, on your own timeline, will be well received. Since you want to remain friends with her, I don't think that's the way to go about it.

I agree that you should have a heart-to-heart with her, offer to cancel or postpone the party, talk about postponing/canceling the wedding, and see what she wants you to do. I think you should trust your instinct to stick by her, and try to help her through this mess. Don't break out the big guns (canceling the party on your own terms) unless you really can't get anywhere by talking to her and are ready to accept that it's probably going to add fuel to the fire.
posted by juliplease at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's hard to internally resolve being judgmental, but here's my 2 cents: I used to be super-judgy when I was younger - I held everyone up to my own standards and friendships burnt to the ground when the person failed. I lost several friends like that. My attitude changed a lot when I later struggled through some of my own poor choices. I became a lot more empathetic towards people when I realized how hard it must be for them to figure out what's the right thing to do, or to have the strength to do it. People can be weak, forgive them and help them with loving support. Sometimes you can't stop people from making mistakes, but you can be there to help them through it.

The hen party is just that - a party, not the wedding itself. It's a display of love and friendship towards the bride-to-be. Your friend should be the only one who makes the call of whether or not it should happen. If you want to talk to her, maybe with a few other friends in some kind of intervention about her getting married, so be it. But if she's still wanting to stubbornly proceed, it's not your place to make additional waves. But you could be more considerate of planning the party so that she doesn't get drunk and flirt/dance with other guys.
posted by lizbunny at 10:13 AM on July 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I agree with voiletk. The whole point about being an ethical human being is that your ethics need to be global. You would tell your friend if you saw her fiance cheating on your friend. You need to have a talk with your friend and give her a deadline to tell her fiance.

@lizbunny: The fiance is also a human being in your story and you're conveniently forgetting that he also deserves to have a fulfilling relationship.
posted by DetriusXii at 11:08 AM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


By the way, I wouldn't tell the hen party invitees why you are cancelling. I would just send a message to some of her close friends first saying you can no longer host the party (pipe broke? landlord doing construction? A/C not working well?) and does anyone else want to do it? If not, it's cancelled. If so, well, great for your friend. The thing is, the party isn't just a girls get together because you love your friend, or you would be having parties for her every weekend. It's to celebrate her impending marriage and commemorate good times you all had as single people.

As for telling the friend to make a choice- I wouldn't present this in harsh terms, but have a nice discussion with her where you say that she is doing herself and her fiancee a disservice. Further, she is putting all of her friends in a bad position by forcing them to lie. So, you hope she can make a good decision and feel she will be happier when she has this difficult time in her life behind her.
posted by superfille at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am uncomfortable with the idea of organising and participating in a ritual designed to celebrate an event the bride-to-be is not so keen on.

Well, maybe she is and maybe you need to talk to her and tell her you will support her if she wants to back out. I don't see why you should cancel the party, but if you're not comfortable with it then ask someone else to host it. Really, though, hen parties are not solemn rituals - they're parties for the bride. You're not endorsing anything.

The people saying to give her an ultimatum or to tell her fiancé are nuts. No only will you alienate her, you'll alienate every other mutual friend you have as well. You're not the morality police.

I agree with voiletk. The whole point about being an ethical human being is that your ethics need to be global. You would tell your friend if you saw her fiance cheating on your friend. You need to have a talk with your friend and give her a deadline to tell her fiance.

@lizbunny: The fiance is also a human being in your story and you're conveniently forgetting that he also deserves to have a fulfilling relationship.


Not all ethics are global. People put their friends and family above random people.
She has no obligation to the fiancé, I'm sure he deserves sunshine and rainbows and whatever but it's not OP's role to be Little Miss Righteous and ensure that JUSTICE is done.
posted by atrazine at 12:30 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


+1 for "don't be the relationship police".

Let the drama be 100% her problem. If she wants a wedding, and wants the party, be her friend and organize it. Who she sleeps with is her problem.
posted by colin_l at 12:58 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm unclear who made you the morality police but if you genuinely think it wouldn't be morally right for you to throw this party, then you need to also withdraw your friendship. I am not even kidding. She's good enough for your standards or she isn't.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:36 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


DarlingBri: "I'm unclear who made you the morality police but if you genuinely think it wouldn't be morally right for you to throw this party, then you need to also withdraw your friendship. I am not even kidding. She's good enough for your standards or she isn't."

You have a wide variety of options for supporting your friend that do not involve judging her is any way, being close enough to be the person she picked to host a hen party but still pretending nothing is wrong is not really one of them. Something is very wrong, if your friend were poly and this was all cool then you would probably know it or at least certainly have reason to suspect it. Not wanting to enable destructive behavior in ones friends is not inherently judgmental. Your position is not enviable and none of your options are really all that great, but being uncomfortable here does not make you a bad person or a bad friend.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:59 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


As far as being judgy goes, I'm cool with people making choices that fuck up their own lives. I am much less cool with them making choices that directly fuck up other people's lives. Given her ambivalence towards the marriage, does she even want to have a hens party?
posted by crankylex at 4:39 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wait, why did your friend do this in front of you all, so that you had to stop her, and then tell you she'd done it before?

Unless she's stupid she had to anticipate that this could get back to her fiancé somehow. Unless you're dense you have to wonder about her motives. Would she really expect that not one of her friends would get "judgy" and have zero problem with being in the wedding party to her clueless fall guy of a groom?

I think the question of whether this is judgy is the wrong question. There are many possibilities here, including the one that your friend is a habitual cheater who nonetheless expects to go through with the wedding unhindered and was reckless as to whether she got caught or not. Or that this is a cry for help and she actually wants to outsource her conscience to judgy, serious you.

In an ideal world all adults would use their words to say, "I no longer wish to enter into a lifelong marriage contract with Nigel, my habitual infidelity is a symptom of my unwillingness, and I do hereby release all of you from your obligations as members of the wedding party except those duties you are hereinafter required to execute in cancelling the shower and returning two crates of ribald party favours and amusingly phallic tricolor pasta to the store." Ideally, every bride would be pulled together enough to state their position that boldly.

However, I do think that as her friend you could sit down with her and ask about the significance of what she confessed to you and what she feels about the wedding. Her answer will tell you what you should do. If she seemed to take the attitude that it's okay to cheat behind sappy Nigel's stupid, clueless back, then I don't think it would be out of line if you didn't want to participate in a ceremony which, actually, you kinda do know of a reason why this man and woman should at least get their facts straight before they are joined in matrimony. It's not really fair of the bride to put you in a position where you have to choose between keeping a secret for her or being "judgy".
posted by tel3path at 4:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I really appreciate all this advice and feedback.

To address some of the points brought up:

-The party will still go ahead if I backed out, so there isn't a risk of her secret coming out from my absence. That being said, as the lynch-pin of the group (ala Jerry Seinfeld), and most of the girls going on the hens know about the infidelity (they were there that night), I know that a decision to not attend will encourage at least two others to drop out as well (one friend has done so already). She is feeling crap and embarassed, and I don't want her to feel abandoned by her friends, but I'm trying to resolve internally a) what my next step is, and b) if that next step is moral. If this were all about me, I would have just said "F*** it", cut ties and walked away.

-Friend has been sat down by two understanding married women from the group (so as not to feel ambushed by the group), and they had discussions about what happened, and the reasons for what happened. Friend has promised to talk to her fiancee about problems in the relationship, but not the infidelity. She also said that she's not cheating anymore.

-I appreciate that there is another party involved (which is why I'm in such moral turmoil), however I do not believe it is my place to give her an ultimatum which involves a threat of dobbing on her fiancee. I would be appalled if I told a secret to my friend, and they took it upon themselves to use it against me. This is her secret to tell.

I was hoping that the chat that she had with our mutual friends would have cleared up the feelings of uneasiness, but some of the comments here have reinforced the importance of me finding out first hand exactly what she's thinking, and if she needs extra support to call the whole thing off.

I appreciate all of you taking the time to respond, and keen to read more if you have further thoughts on this situation.
posted by travellingincognito at 6:07 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, I can disapprove of my friend's behaviour and not withdraw my friendship. I have done so on a couple of occasions, when the friendships were long and deep and these friends were going through some personal weirdness that resulted in them making decisions that were not what I would have thought they would have chosen. But hey, travellingincognito, your friend sounds like she needs some support here. She sounds terribly confused and in turmoil herself. I dont' think you can decide what to do until you've had your own conversation with her and tell her what you are feeling, just as you've said it here. Tell her you don't know what to do. Ask her what she wants from you on this. Then see how it all feels.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2012


I can disapprove of my friend's behaviour and not withdraw my friendship

Yes, absolutely, but I don't think you can disapprove of your friend's behaviour, pull out of her hen party, and think you are still being a good friend. Attending the hen party is not endorsing the infidelity. On the other hand, if you don't attend the hen, are you also... not going to attend the wedding? Because I'm not sure how that is being a particularly good friend.

You have a wide variety of options for supporting your friend that do not involve judging her is any way, being close enough to be the person she picked to host a hen party but still pretending nothing is wrong is not really one of them.

This entire question is based on the premise "infidelity is bad." I happen to agree that infidelity is bad, but there is no point in pretending that is not a judgement. We all judge our friends all the time.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:23 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Darling Bri - the wedding is overseas, and my work schedule will make attendance difficult.
posted by travellingincognito at 12:54 AM on July 9, 2012


I think your obligation is to keep temptation away at the party and not encourage any messing around.

The rest is up to her.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:59 AM on July 9, 2012


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